Re-post: It’s Holy Week — Who Cares?

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?” (Lamentations 1:12). What a searching question to ask ourselves during Holy Week!

I visualize the Book of Lamentations as written by the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, after Jerusalem had been sacked by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

I picture him as sitting on Olivet overlooking the ruins – the temple is smashed and burned, the walls of the city lie strewn along the steep embankment of the Kidron Valley, and almost all human life in the city has ceased. It’s the picture of desolation.

At some point he must have noticed that travelers who passed the ruins went about their business as though nothing had happened and he sobs out, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?”

There’s a place for that lament in our lives too. Sunday, March 28, for Christians is Palm Sunday and the beginning of what we call Holy week ending with Resurrection Sunday on April 4. To us today, Jerusalem is the city where, six centuries after Jeremiah, Our Lord was arrested, falsely accused, flogged unjustly and then put to death on a cross by the Roman authorities.

May we never forget that his death bore a two-fold testimony to the world. First, it bore witness to the exceeding sinfulness of sin. It was the sins of the world that put Jesus there –- greed, lust, selfishness, deception, pride — sins we all know about by shameful personal experience.

But, against all that darkness, the cross bore witness to the immeasurable greatness of God’s love for sinners — “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). John the Baptist dubbed Jesus, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

It is fitting for us to hear Jeremiah’s question in a personal way: “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?” That is, when we see the devastation of sin portrayed in the cross and at the same time the redeeming love of God, how much does it matter?

Here are references to key happenings during the original Holy Week. You may wish to use them for your daily meditations:

SUNDAY. This was the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem cheered on by the mistaken notion of the throngs that he would use his great powers as a national king to drive out the Roman occupation. (Matt. 21:1-11; Lk. 19: 28-44)

MONDAY. Jesus curses the fig tree. It was a shocking “acted parable” of judgment against the nation that had failed its divine assignment. (Matt. 21:18,19)

TUESDAY. The Olivet discourse upon his return from Jerusalem to Bethany (Lk. 21:5-36)

WEDNESDAY. It is thought by some to be a day of silence. But his enemies were not silent. The ruling Sanhedrin plots to kill him. (Matt. 26:3-5; Lk 22:1-2)

THURSDAY. Preparations for his observance of the Passover meal and at the same time his instituting of communion in connection with the Last Supper (Matt. 26:20-35; Lk 22:14-30).

FRIDAY. This is the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. He is betrayed and arrested (John 18:2-12); tried before Annas (John 18:13-24); before Caiaphas (John 18:19-24); before the full Sanhedrin (Lk 22:66-71); before Pilate and Herod (Lk 23:1-25) He was on his cross from 9 A.M. To 3 P.M. (Jn 19:16-37); then hastily buried (Matt.26:57-61)

SATURDAY. The Jewish sabbath, a day of silence.

SUNDAY. Resurrection appearances (Matt. 28:1-20). The day of astonishment, joy, and the rebirth of hope. To prepare us properly for the Day of Resurrection we need the whole week for Bible reading, meditation and prayer.

Holy Week is the week in which Our Lord was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, forsaken temporarily by his nearest followers, flogged by the Roman authorities and eventually nailed to a Roman cross on which he felt forsaken by the Father because a holy God cannot countenance sin.

When the Apostle Paul reflected on the event he wanted to fellowship Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10). May we be saved from any nonchalance this Holy Week and rather deepen in our identification with Christ in his life, death, burial and resurrection.

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Photo credit: Tewkes (via flickr.com)

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One thought on “Re-post: It’s Holy Week — Who Cares?

  1. Holy week – who cares? I care.It’s the most special week in the year .

    I love to follow the church year,follow each season of the year when we remember the important events in the life of Jesus,from Advent through to Christ the King. Holy week and Eastertide,the culmination of Lent in Passiontide ,is the greatest ,most important and emotional time in the whole year.Passiontide is the perfect name for this time of year.

    Somehow humankind,this world ,even nature itself fell out of kilter with our Creator,God. We call this the Fall,and it is shown clearly in Genesis ,through the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. This was a moment in time but more than a moment in time,for it applies universally.For we all, and our whole world, fell away from obedience to,and harmony with our God.

    Jesus,God incarnate,came to put things right .In Holy week came the time.God’s own Son submitted Himself to crucifixion ,sacrificing Himself like a Passover Lamb,to atone for us. I have heard Jewish folk say the Paschal lamb ,often brought from Bethlehem,would be brought into Jerusalem on this Sunday.It would then be eaxamined during the week of Passover .If no fault was found with it,it wotld be sacrificed.Just as Pontius Pilate found no fault with Jesus.

    In perfect obedience ,to counter the disobedience of Adam and Eve which is our disobedience,Jesus submitted to crucifixion in sacrificial love.To save us from sin and from death.

    Holy week begins with Palm Sunday.Passion Sunday is a name which has been applied to both the Sunday before Palm Sunday and Palm Sunday itself. Palm Sunday heralds in Passiontide,Jesus’s’ great act of Passion on our behalf.Palm Sunday begins Holy week In some churches,including mine,the crosses are dressed with red material for the Passion..

    PALM SUNDAY commemorates Jesus ‘ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.In church we may process waving palms or palm crosses or any branches available in different parts of the world. So in Italy ,olive branches are carried in some parts.In some places this day is known as Branch Sunday or Yew Sunday.Often we use palm fronds that have been knotted into crosses and blessed the day before Palm Sunday , which is known in some places as Lazarus Saturday.

    HOLY MONDAY or Great Monday is the day we remember the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple. There is a great feeling of anticipation .

    HOLY TUESDAY or Great Tuesday we feel increasingly vigilant and a great awe falls upon us as we progress deeper into Holy week.

    HOLY WEDNESDAY or Great Wednesday is also called Spy Wednesday by some, indicating Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus and this may have involved spying out His wherabouts in the garden of Gethsemane.We remember the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with costly spikenard.

    By Wednesday Jesus’ crucifixion feels closer than ever to us as His anointing with spikenard is as though Jesus is being anointed ready for His death.Jesus hints at this by saying He will not be always with the disciples so let the woman anointing Him be.We also feel Judas is now absolutely determined to betray our Lord.Sometimes a feeling of uneasiness and danger can pervade Holy Wednesday.

    MAUNDY THURSDAY or Holy Thursday is the day we remember Jesus’ command ,written in St Jerome’s Vulgate Bible as ‘Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos’’ or’’A new commandment I give ye:Love one another as I have loved you.’’ The old English word Maundy recalls Jesus’ first word of this command – Mandatum.
    We remember Jesus’ Last Supper or Lord’s Supper .
    We remember His humility ,in washing the feet of His disciples.Jesus said
    ‘’If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.’’ AV John 13:14

    Traditionally on this day,in England,the king would wash the feet of the poor in the centre of our cities.Nowadays bishops and deans often wash the feet of parishioners or shoppers either in church or in the shopping centre.The Queen of Britain and the Commonwealth gives away special Maundy money to folk ,in vestigial reminder of the days when the monarch would publicly wash the feet of the poor,in imitation of Christ.
    We remember the Farewell Discourse after supper, given by Jesus,according to John’s gospel, to the eleven remaining disciples after Judas’s departure.

    We remember Jesus said He is the true Vine and we are His branches.We remember His warning that the world may hate us but it hated Him first.So we take heart knowing Jesus will overcome the world.

    We remember Jesus’ prayer for His coming church – the Christian church.I like to remember on this day Jesus commanded us to Christian unity.
    There is so much to remember on Holy Thursday.We remember Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane and how the disciples fell asleep and left Jesus alone in His agony.So some churches like to keep quiet vigil ,sometimes in a quiet side chapel ,through this holy night when Jesus was betrayed ,arrested,falsely tried,and denied even by Cephas,Simon Peter the rock.

    GOOD FRIDAY is when we recall the crucifixion of Jesus.Some of us like to follow the 14 Stations of the Cross.I prefer to follow the 14 Scriptural Stations of the Cross ,ommiting for instance the station of Veronica and including the Station of Jesus entrusting Mary and John to each other.This is because the Scriptural Stations are based on biblical authority in the Gospels,not church traditions.I had considered these more Protestant,less Catholic, until I learned it was Pope John Paul 11 who introduced these new Scriptural Stations of the Cross ,and Pope Benedict XV I who approved them for public celebration.

    On Good Friday I like to remember Christ’s Last 7 words on the Cross ,at the appropriate stations, as we go round the 14 Stations of the Cross.

    Some churches choose to put out all candles and have no lights on in church all through Friday and Saturday.Some churches cover all pictures until Easter Day.

    EASTER EVE or Holy Saturday feels strange.One has a feeling of the unknown.Jesus is dead and who living understands death. I recall that part of the Apostles Creed which says ’He descended into hell’ .I think and think about this,trying to find out what happened through the BibleBut the realm of the dead is unknown to the living.

    I have heard of the Harrowing of Hell.This is an old English term for Christ’s descent into hell as triumphant conqueror of death.It is said Christ brought out of hell all the righteous soils trapped there ,from the beginning of time,on that Easter Eve

    In my church every Easter morning we have Charles Wesley’s wonderful victorious Easter hymn ‘ Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!’. We even have trumpets to accompany the hymn.Wesley’s hymn contains such glorious lines as ’ Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!’.And a line which seems to point to the harrowing of hell by Jesus:

    ‘Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!’

    Though this line could just mean Jesus overcame death.Whatever,Easter Day is a day of supreme glorious victory,won for God the Father by Jesus Christ.

    Through Adam we lost Paradise. Through Jesus,the new Adam,Paradise is regained !

    Charles Wesley writes

    ‘Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia’

    Finally the strange uneasy day that is Easter Eve comes to an end.The next dawn brings the Day of Resurrection,Easter Day.He is risen!

    In our church the red Passion drape is taken from our great Cross and a white one draped in it’s place,.Just as the red cloth was a visual symbol of Christ’s Passion,so the white is a reminder ,for our eyes, of His Ressurection.Everything is changed.The world has entered a new phase.

    In the words of Isaac Watts,in his great Easter hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ ,we should each of us say

    ‘’ Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all’’

    For the amazing love which Jesus gave to us all,let us give Him our lives and souls and go out into the world to serve Him.

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